How To Make Exercise Feel Easier

Hi everyone! Before I jump into this post I would like to issue an apology for my absence – these last weeks were full of studying and I literally had no time for anything else, but now that my workload has eased I will be back to posting on a regular basis. Thank you all for sticking around and I cannot wait to be involved in the blogging world once again, and I have managed to accumulate a nice list of ideas while I was away so be expecting a lot of content in the run up to Christmas!

Okay, now let’s leap into the main topic of this post: when you’re just starting out a new exercise programme, it can understandably feel like climbing Mount Everest, in particular if you’ve never been athletic before. To some people, sport can feel natural and easy, while to others it connotes hours of difficulty and pain, and this category of people may not understand how others workout for fun rather than just for the physical benefits. Whether you’ve started a fitness journey to build muscle, lose weight or prevent one of the diseases associated with living a sedentary lifestyle, those first few weeks of jumping between exercise machines may be anything other than enjoyable and as a consequence, many people quit because ‘they don’t like exercise’.

How to enjoy working out

Tips for healthy living

I have been going to the gym for around four years at this point, and prior to joining I have been sporty for my entire life. Despite the fact that at certain points my relationship with exercise has been less than optimal, as a whole I love movement. Going to the gym is one of my favourite parts of the day. However, even as a ‘seasoned’ gym goer, I experience dips in motivation. The time I dedicate to my workout goes by much slower than usual and every exercise just fundamentally feels harder and heavier. Sometimes, I do workouts I don’t wholeheartedly adore (e.g. spinning) because I know of the health benefits they deliver and that accomplishment I experience afterwards. In both cases, I have to implement a few tricks to make the workouts feel ‘easier’ without compromising the actual difficulty of the workout. Sounds contradictory, but hopefully you all know what I mean.

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Two Quick, Easy and Vegan Oatmeal Recipes

I know I’m on a roll with these recipe posts recently, and I think that’s because I’m hungry pretty much all the time. Paired with insubstantial sleep, that’s the main effect the cold has on me. So, I cannot think of a better excuse to whip out my creative side, put my appetite to good use and try out a bunch of new recipes.

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With starting a new job recently, I have been busier than usual (hence, I do apologise for any delay in comment responses!) which always brings the need for super simple meals I can create up in fifteen or so minutes without compromising taste. Oatmeal falls into this category for sure – no matter how much I eat oats, I never get bored of them. Moreover, they are ideal for storing in the fridge in time for breakfast and giving yourself a few extra minutes in bed! Continue reading “Two Quick, Easy and Vegan Oatmeal Recipes”

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Brownies

I am not entirely sure whether calling these ‘brownies’ is appropriate due to the noticeable layer of pumpkin, but the name seemed more concise than ‘big dessert thing with a dark chocolate and a pumpkin layer’. Brownies is close enough.

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Anyway, after a stressful week full of job interviews (because unfortunately, gap year travels cannot be funded from the magic money tree), finally finding myself a job and undergoing two days of intensive, last-minute training, I couldn’t think of a better way to unwind than with some baking. Every bureaucratic, grown-up responsibility has to be compensated with something that benefits the soul as well as the mind/my bank account. Moreover, our home severely lacks autumnal decorations, and I wanted to bring in a bit of seasonal spirit with the warming smell of pumpkin and cinnamon.

The result, for sure, was not disappointing. If you have a few cans of pumpkin laying around in your cupboards, there is no better way to use them up than through either brownies or baked oatmeal, and I decided to go for the former.

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Continue reading “Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Brownies”

Intense, No Equipment Leg Workout

Sometimes, you cannot make it to the gym and only have thirty or so minutes to get in a good workout. At other times, you want to switch up your routine due to sagging motivation and boredom. That’s when an equipment-free, do at home or anywhere else workout comes in handy. I will always love the gym and lifting heavy but continuously doing the same thing can be detrimental to progress, hence I often mix in quicker, high-intensity workouts to ‘shock’ my muscles and build up endurance.

This workout is one of my favourites for many reasons and I wanted to share it with all of you to show that all you need to pursue fitness is yourself and a stopwatch. It is both beginner-friendly (perfect for anyone who is just starting their fitness journey and is yet to sign up for a gym membership) and can be made harder by adding a pair of dumbbells or ankle weights. I took this workout outside to embrace these last few days of bearable weather, but I am sure I would have managed in the limited space of my bedroom.

The circuits do not have to be done all together and can be mixed into a gym routine for some extra intensity. Be sure to include five or so minutes of dynamic stretching before and after the workout, modifying the exercises to suit your abilities (e.g. the plyometric exercises can be replaced with their ‘ordinary’ counterpart, such as squats instead of jumping squats) and keeping a water bottle on hand to stay hydrated. Just a quick disclaimer – I am not a personal trainer and you should consult your doctor before starting any exercise programme, so ensure you are in the correct state of health before doing this!

CIRCUIT 1: Complete each exercise for 45 seconds before resting for 15. Repeat circuit three times (12 minutes total)

Exercise 1: lunge with knee tuck.

Lunge exercise

  • Start from a standing position. Step back into a lunge as demonstrated in the above photo, ensuring your knee doesn’t go over your toe. Push off the floor and lift your leg into a knee tuck until your thigh is at least parallel with the ground. Then, bring your foot back into a lunge and ensure it does not touch the floor throughout the transition.

Continue reading “Intense, No Equipment Leg Workout”

My Morning Routine 2017: Healthy but Realistic

Hi dears!

I understand the appeal of continuously hitting the snooze button and hauling yourself out of bed fifteen minutes before you’re supposed to leave. I understand the appeal of skipping breakfast (but at the same time I don’t, because honestly, the first thing I think about when I wake up is food #noshame). However, given that you’re able to fall asleep at a reasonable time, allowing yourself plenty of space each morning to pursue a routine can help with emotional wellbeing enormously, given how much you can adapt and tailor this to your own personality and preferences.

The routine aspect is important. I’ve been an early riser for many years, and a lover of mornings, but as of recent I’ve managed to create a list of things to fill those extra hours that are much more mindful, more energising than an aimless scroll through Instagram. Okay, the Instagramming is still there, but I try to make it constructive&controlled.

Honesty is important to this blog, so I am not going to sit here and say that I run half a marathon, get in my five a day, exfoliate my entire body and write a best-selling novel all before the clock strikes 7. The routine outlined below is realistic and works well for me, helping establish the foundations for a successful day without burning me out: a balance I worked hard on finding. Mornings do not have to be intense. However, a structure can bring many benefits, such as mental clarity and a productive approach to the day’s endeavours.

As a little disclaimer, I do not follow these steps every day. I adjust them in accordance with how I feel as flexibility is a value I will always abide to. However, an outline helps enormously in saving me from a feeling of disarray, a cluelessness regarding what to do with myself upon awakening, which carries a risk of spilling into the succeeding hours.

So, here is an overview of a typical morning in the life of Maria:

I wake up anywhere between 5 and 6:30, depending on when I must leave. The next five to ten minutes are dedicated to something which grounds me in the external world, ready to meet whatever challenges may arise. I avoid all technology and social media during this time, because stepping into the digital realm as soon as I open my eyes can disconnect me from my surroundings and lead to a sense of ‘drifting’ through the rest of the day, as opposed to engaging with it. If you haven’t tried it yet, I would recommend practicing mindfulness in the early hours: just pay attention to how your body is feeling, what signals its sending you, what emotions you’re experiencing. Sometimes, I do some reading, or sit with my cat and watch the skies lighten. Continue reading “My Morning Routine 2017: Healthy but Realistic”

Comparing Your Diet to That of Others: a Habit That Needs Breaking

They say comparison is the thief of joy, and this is particularly applicable to food. As someone who’s coming from a background of anorexia, I admit I still struggle with comparing my food intake to other people’s. Difference is, now that I am recovered, I don’t let my perception of their portion sizes influence my own as I would have in the past. However, I know plenty of people who have no experience with eating disorders, but are still wary of what they eat and experience negative emotions whenever they perceive their choice of food to be in some way inferior: they will stick to salads when eating out, refrain from going for seconds at buffets and avoid ordering desert if the people they’re with don’t do the same.

I don’t blame anyone for this, as a pressure to eat in a certain way (ie a 1200 calorie, no carbs, some spinach for breakfast sort of diet which is actually counterproductive and doesn’t deliver the weight loss it promises) is very prevalent in our society. Hence, it’s easy to feel guilty when others seem to be eating ‘healthier’, or less, than you are. YouTube is riddled with that I eat in a day videos. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching and making them as I’m quite curious and always on the lookout for recipe ideas, but certain ones just call for comparison (e.g. The videos conveniently named ‘what I eat in a day as a model/actress/any sort of role which insinuates success’). Some of these do a great job at reassuring me that I’m not the only girl out there with a hefty appetite, but others, even if we logically know the person is starving themselves and their behaviour is unhealthy, can make anyone feel ‘insatiable’.

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I never hold back at the all-you-can-eat-buffet

Continue reading “Comparing Your Diet to That of Others: a Habit That Needs Breaking”

Let’s Talk Mental Health: Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia.

A truly ‘ideal’ lifestyle – the definition of which is subjective – is, I would argue, impossible to achieve. In some instances, mere time constraints may get in the way: you miss workouts because of upcoming exams, choose convenient food while travelling, sleep less than your body needs because of work. Sometimes, it’s mental health. And speaking of sleep, that’s exactly what I want to address today. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with sleep for quite some time, and a desire to de-stigmatise mental health while promoting the ‘physical’ aspects of a healthy lifestyle is one of my objectives on social media. As of recent, my ability to manage sleeping issues has improved considerably hence I decided to take my internalised debates to the blog, muse about insomnia (with sleep anxiety being a central point of discussion) and hopefully help others unlucky enough to experience these issues.

How to deal with insomnia

The fact that insomnia affects up to one in three people in the UK scares me, given the indispensability of sleep in maintaining your physical and mental health. Until around March or April 2017, I took pride in being able to fall asleep within minutes: sure, sometimes I stayed awake out of choice to complete a pressing homework assignment or returned home later than usual after a gym session, but once I was in bed with my eyes closed, I’d be asleep in under fifteen minutes. I woke up no later than seven even on weekends and had a concrete sleeping schedule. But when a month remained until my exams and a mere couple of weeks before study leave, my cortisol (why can I never remember how to spell this word?!) levels skyrocketed and each night, I found it harder and harder to fall asleep. Then, one night it took me five hours to fall asleep. The struggle started with racing thoughts about the upcoming exams, their importance, the revision I could be doing instead of laying in bed, and when I spotted midnight on the clock, I imagined my alarm going off six hours later. I imagined the effects of sleep deprivation: grogginess, inability to focus, inability to comprehend information about quantum mechanics. After that, everything changed. Continue reading “Let’s Talk Mental Health: Sleep Anxiety and Insomnia.”